First Person: Gun violence followed him from student to parent

By Kenny Bledsoe:

Editor’s Note: Remembering the 19th anniversary of the Columbine mass murder on its 19th anniversary, April 20, 1999.

I was in 9th grade when two teenagers donned black trench coats, armed themselves to the teeth, and set about systematically murdering 12 of their classmates and a teacher before killing themselves at Columbine High School in Colorado. Rumors swirled among the students the next day at my school in rural eastern North Carolina. We all knew of a few disaffected kids who might be disturbed enough to carry out something like that. I wrote and recorded a song about one of them later in the year. We all knew that if anyone wanted to recreate Columbine, there would be essentially no way to stop them from acquiring the guns they would need to do it.

Mine was a pretty hardscrabble school, so we found some solace in dark humor about our own toughness. Columbine couldn’t happen there; if anyone pulled out a gun, several other students would return fire. As a 15-year-old, I had already been threatened with gun violence. I ran afoul of a violent group at the school by way of a teenage love triangle. Members of the group communicated to me more than once that if I showed up in certain places, it would be a mortal risk. No one ever pointed a gun at me, but I never tested the threats. I knew in 1999, just as in 2018, there was every reason to believe that these kids had the guns to carry them out.

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